Why the Intelligent Design debate is a whole lot of hot air

Recently, all they’ve been talking about on NPR is the Intelligent Design debate. Basically, some people say that when students are taught evolution during biology, they should be informed that not everyone believes in evolution. Opponents say that religion has no place in a biology class. I agree; religion should be taught in a religious studies class. But what is so hard about saying the following:

Today we will learn about evolution. There are some people, including scientists, out there who do not believe in evolution and these are their reasons. Instead they believe that because of all above reasons, that the complexity of life must have been designed or aided by an intelligent super-being. However, the majority of scientists DO believe that evolution is a fact and here are their reasons for believing that evolution is true. In the end, there is no way to prove which is right so it is up to you to decide what you believe in. For the purposes of this biology class, we shall assume evolution to be true.

Would that be so hard? Does that evoke religion? They didn’t say God, Allah, Shiva, Mother Earth, or any other name people assign to the being they assume to be in charge. Why would that be so offensive to those who don’t believe in a god? Have they considered it to be offensive to those who do believe in a god to be told that their beliefs are a bunch of a baloney, as some teachers and professors do?

The real issue is that both sides are extremely dogmatic. Belief in evolution is a belief system on its own – based on faith. The scientists have done this experiment and that experiment and believe these to prove evolution. Just like any other belief system it cannot be proven without a doubt to be true.

You see, when people get mad at those who question evolution, they are being just as bad as those who get mad if someone questions the existence of gods. Why? Let’s look at an easy science to prove – physics. Namely, let’s look at Newton’s Laws, which apply to nature on the macro scale. (Quantum Mechanics throws all these rules out the window, but we’re talking about particles we can’t even see – just infer) Ok, one of Newton’s Laws – an object at rest will remain at rest. This can be tested! Put a pencil on a perfectly flat surface and then wait for it to move on its own. It won’t! What about chemistry? Take an acid and a base – add them together and it’s easy to prove you get water. So for every other science, we can set up an experiment to prove or disprove our hypothesis. We can’t do this for evolution.

While it would be really neat to have an experiment where a scientist took some single-celled creatures and, a week later, had a human – it just can’t happen. Evolution, if it’s true, takes place over millions and millions of years. I’d be surprised if humans survived that long! But even if we did, we’d have to have set up an experiment millions of years ago and kept up with it for all that time; something I think is more unlikely than me spontaneously combusting.

In the end, both sides need to relax. Because our country does not have a state-sponsored religion, and because it is equally hard to prove Intelligent Design without building a time machine, we cannot teach or advocate a specific religion in a biology class. Because, as far as I’m concerned, the gaps in evolution could be said to point to a creator, but that’s about it. There’s nothing there which would say – aha! It was Zeus who created the earth. And, I think that, while an ideal thought, it is a great exercise to teach young biology students to be tolerant of opposing views. In life there will always be someone who believes something different than you do. Wouldn’t it be great if our classrooms helped to make people more tolerant of each other? I may not believe the world according to Islam, but I don’t want to kill them or cover my ears whenever they talk.

Everyone has a right to believe in whatever they want. I may believe that person A is wrong and that my beliefs are right and we can talk about it, but in the end, if person A still believes they are right, then they are entitled to that belief. I know that doesn’t square with an evangelical message of trying to get as many people to believe in God as possible, but I think it works just right for existing in a diverse world. Everyone has a chance throughout their lifetime to hear about God, Allah, etc and you must respect their choice. Because, after all, at least for the religions born out of the Middle East, choice is key. God/Allah gave Adam and Eve the choice to make the wrong choice and they had to live with their consequences. Therefore, if you want to be like God/Allah (which is the message usually given in church) you should allow people to make their own choices and they will deal with the consequences.

So let’s allow people to express their views and, for once in the history of humanity say, “Oh, that’s an interesting idea” instead of “Die infedel!” As BOTH sides have been saying recently.

One response to “Why the Intelligent Design debate is a whole lot of hot air”

  1. To be fair, while Evolution is just a theory, it does have more scientific basis than intelligent design. Not everything we observe is right (as in, we don’t get every guess right as you can ask the Ancient Greeks), but the fact that Evolution came from the scientific method-style of research entitles it to deserve more attention in a science class, IMHO.